This morning, I woke after the gift of a perfect night’s sleep, and well, I felt depleted . . . or maybe a little defeated is the right word. Here where I live, emotions and politics have been running high as the county tries to sort out budget issues.

Of course, there are many perspectives on this issue, and of course I have one . . . but my discouragement and feeling of defeat didn’t come specifically from the decisions that were made. No, I am discouraged by the attitudes and demeanors of those who made them.

These leaders had the opportunity to show understanding and openness in the face of people who were in pain and afraid. Of course, they had to bear up under criticism and sometimes (unfair) personal attacks, but as any of us who have a public face know, this is part of the job. It’s not always pleasant, but it’s what we do. And we have a responsibility to do it kindly and with understanding.

Last night, I didn’t see much kindness or understanding on the face of our public officials, and I’m discouraged by that.

I hear this same discouragement in the voices of my writer friends who, by nature of their work, subject themselves to rejection over and over again. They send out queries and manuscripts, only to be told, “No,” many, many times – each time, I know it feels like life eeks away a little.

When those rejections come coldly – on pieces of paper so small that they are dwarfed by their envelopes or in emails terse and rote – it’s even harder. It makes a person feel small . . . unimportant.

So much some days I want to let myself be defeated, to give in to the slew of HGTV that arrives unquestioned in the room next door. Some days I want to allow the discouragement it’s place as the ultimate excuse – it does no good so why bother. Some days I long to get so angry that I write off politicians and editors forever.

But to do those things is to let “them” win. It’s easy to think of “them” as the people who have discouraged us, of course, but I think “them” might actually be “us.” The part of us that is tired and ready to quit. For we can only be defeated if we allow ourselves to be.

But there is something to be said for the hard-fought path, for the journey that involves barbs and thorns . . . strength comes from travail, not ease. Wisdom grows in the face of adversity. Delight is sweeter in the overcoming.

My reminders – Civil Rights workers staring down police dogs and water hoses, people with cancer who choose to fight the disease and fight to live the best life, Gandhi and his emaciated rib cage, the young man who stood held a sign that says, “God hates no one” in the very face of such hate.

Today, I choose to continue on despite the coldness and arrogance of people who are elected to care and listen. I choose to write my work even as I know it might be rejected outright a hundred times. I choose to try, again and again, because to quit means to let “them” win, and I’m not content to let “them” define me.

What do you do in the face of discouragement?